21 thoughts on “At Least One Person Agrees With Me”

  1. Excellent stuff!
    I watched Gran Torino recently after it was brought to my attention by being discussed on hellinahandbasket.net. It is an excellent film and follows on very well from Unforgiven.

  2. Ethnic humor brings us to Bennett’s great triad – you cam have two, maybe, but not all three: multiculturalism, open borders, and democracy. If a group is seen as aggrieved or another as above laughter, you are going to have a lot of trouble assimilating. If you see it as a melting pot which is flavored by various ingredients but is essentially, above all, American, then we can see that that national unites us.

    The time Eastwood is describing may have made Sam the Jew feel like an outsider – but he was, in the framework of that group, made an insider by that label. The self-conscious diversity (indeed, of the old, a lifeboat of ethnics) of most social groups in the late fifties is sometimes forgotten. I thought it was good – I was brought up in a household in the midst of a small farming area in which the German Catholics settled Roseland and the Irish Catholics Heartwell and the German Lutherans Kenesaw. The Anglos, up from the South, were sprinkled around and more often in the villages than the other groups. I think that if my family knew someone who didn’t note those differences they would not consider them “above” prejudice but below a natural, instinctive curiosity about what made others tick, what they felt and why they thought as they did – would be less rather than more respectful of others.

    The Bullock Museum in Austin just opened a new (and soon-to-be-travelling) display of Galveston, the Ellis Island of the South. (Katrina was nothing beside the devastation of Galveston at the turn of the century that halted that flow.) I find its celebration of ethnicities attractive; its tendency, however, to see the immigrant experience in tragic terms undercuts the entire force of that hearty migrant population. The emphasis upon slavery, human trafficking, the narrowness of the criteria for admission – these are not facts to be covered up, but facts to be put in a broader perspective.

  3. PC speech control is more about bullying than it is about compassion.

    Multiculturalism is a very dark and dangerous ideology based on the idea that in the end, culture is little more than decoration. They believe that every human being is stamped from the same mold and then a little paint is applied to make them all different. We aren’t really allowed to be truly diverse, to be different from one another. Multiculturalism holds that the collective cultural heritage of humanity boils down to nothing more than “colorful native costumes.”

    It’s the same thing that communist did everywhere, overtly celebrating native cultures with museums and festivals while covertly trying to convert every living human into a pastiche of a late 19th century European intellectual.

  4. Sam the Jew distinguishes that guy from other guys; “the kike” “the spade” “towelhead” “gook” etc distinguish but at the same time demean.

    I had enjoyed (though unable to keep count) the flood of nasty ethnic names the Eastwood character used in Gran Torino, but also realized that the surly character, as he became friendly with his ethnic neighbors, stopped using insulting language for and with them

  5. Re. Fred’s specific appellations (kike, spade, towelhead, gook): some are less questionable to me than others.

    For example, towelhead is not troubling at all. It’s amusing since westerners don’t know what the cloth is called and call it by a convenient name – descriptive, even if not totally accurate. Similarly “spade” is, at least to me, a non-derogatory, even slightly affectionate, description of someone we might not know but informs us superficially (personally I’d rather be called a “spade” than an “African American”, geesh).

    “Gook” of course came to be used in a time and place when “gooks” were mortal enemies and so the word is a bit more problematic. “Kike” may be more like the Nigerian word, I’m not sure about it’s derviation though.

  6. derviation = ? Not in my dictionary.

    Spell checker let me down (No way it could have been my fault!). I meant “derivation”, of course.

  7. Fred’s comment is halfway sane so I will leave it this time.

    I am not necessarily in favor of name calling – it riles a lot of people up. As an example, some people take great offense at being called ‘kraut’. I find it funny even though I am of part German descent. That is just me. In my circle of friends, jokes about our nationalities are fair game – I guess it is just part of the makeup of my tribe.

    What does bother me is that in general (especially around liberal dens like Madison) we can’t point at each other and laugh anymore, nor take a little joke when directed at us. I guess that is the point I am trying to make.

    Ginny – wonderful comment, thank you for leaving it. It says a lot of what I was meaning to say, in much better prose.

  8. Like all things in language, the same racial or ethnic nicknames can be inclusive or exclusive depending on context. Friends, especially male friends, tease each other mercilessly. The fact that you can insult someone becomes an indication of your closeness to them. Close friends my call each other all kinds of derogatory things without harm.

    In english, diminutive and familiar forms are often the same. That is we tend to use the same word to describe both children and friends. So 60 year old women will describe their peer group as “the girls”. This causes problems when someone use a familiar form that is mistaken for a diminutive such as a male manager calling his female subordinates “girls”. He means it as a inclusive statement but a hostile person can frame it as an inclusive statement.

    The great myth of PC speech codes is the idea that words have a specific harmful meaning separated from their context. It prevents us from using insulting forms and diminutives as familiar forms for bonding. I think this is the lose that Eastwood laments.

  9. Shannon, I don’t think friends, within their circle, pay any attention to official language prohibitions. Do Dan’s friends and relatives stop themselves when making jokes about “krauts”?
    Someone at work using “kike” and “girl” as means of bonding with me would meet with unfortunate accident.

  10. Perhaps Tyouth should read the article in the next post by David Foster and contemplate on its meaning. Wringing one’s hands, appealing to “civic discourse”, “academic freedoms”, etc – is proven utterly ineffectual. When someone’s called a “kraut”, or “guido” (funnily, I was not aware of this word until my son’s school friend, actually named Guido, have enlightened me) or a towelhead, it doesn’t mean much to Germans or Italians or Sighs, because in this country there is no history of persecution of these groups (I mean real persecution, like not hiring people with Italian-sounding names or throwing stones on the street at a person with turban on his head) – more importantly, they have nothing to be afraid of NOW – there is no propaganda against them. For Jews, though, it is different. Europe is almost totally antisemitic already, they fell back on pre-WWII beliefs – attacks on Jews, Jewish businesses and institutions are well-documented. It seems like same process is started in US academia; if left unchallenged, it’ll expand into wider society.

    So, you can think I’m overreacting or “aggrieved”, per Ginny’s label – but I’m not waiting to be subjected to the same treatment I had been, in my former country of residence. I am not running anymore.

  11. In Britain, Tony Blair and the multitude of ignorati he encouraged to thrive and expand their influence around him, styled Islam a “race”. If you disapprove of Islamic practices being brought into Britain like, oh, multiple marriages for men (although bigamy and polygamy have been illegal in Britain for centuries), for example; or killing teenage girls who try to resist an arranged marriage (or resist being sent to Pakistan to “visit family” knowing they, mysteriously, will never come home)you are a “racist”.

    If you disapprove of prisons using taxpayer money to build special cells with toilets that face away from Mecca, you are a “racist”.

    Elasticity is the name of the programme.

    By the same token, a particular group of adult women will probably refer to themselves as “the girls”. Now, if the group includes a couple of black women, is it demeaning to refer to them as “girls”? Similarly with “the boys”? There is no reference to humanity here. As others have mentioned above.

  12. Before the deluge I, an Anglo-Celt of Texas provenance, had a Chinese roommate (China born, not merely ethnically so) who habitually called himself and his kind Chinks and me and my kind Crackers. That kind of talk was amusing to both of us, partly because of its transgressiveness. Friendship thrives on edginess and unconstraint. You’re showing real confidence in a fellow when you know he won’t take jibes of that sort in the wrong way. I doubt that friends can do this any longer after the arrival of p.c. Avoidance of dangerous words may be prudent and civilized in many contexts, but sometimes it’s just banal and cowardly. Far from showing how much more virtuous we’ve become, it just shows our loss of innocence and humour. Or even, in the ban of “niggardly”, the general decline of literacy in the culture. Not to mention subtlety.

  13. I agree with Tatyana’s point: it’s hard to generalize about these things.

    What is key is who is doing the name-calling and who is being name-called. Being picked on by an old friend is one thing. Being targeted in a way that usually resulted in physical injury or death within living memory is another.

    Political correctness can be taken too far, but it is hard to strike the right balance. Saying what you want to your friends, but having to watch your tongue around strangers doesn’t seem so bad overall. I’d rather exercise restraint than needlessly offend.

    The one thing I do find interesting is that people complaining about political correctness usually do so in settings where they are the majority, at least in my experience. In settings where there is no dominant race or gender – Silicon Valley or the UC campuses come to mind – people don’t complain about everyone being PC quite so much. We can draw our own conclusions.

  14. P.C. undoubtedly has its merits in terms of stifling boors and preserving comme il faut, but let’s frankly acknowledge its demerits. The universal injunction of never, ever saying certain things or thinking certain things (and I believe this now infects the sphere of friendship as it does every other sphere) is leading us to a plain gray future free of the anarchy of original thought and personal relations.

    We can’t say “niggardly” not because any educated person could possibly believe that the word had a racial import but merely because some ignoramus might think that it did, someone might file a complaint, might say something unpleasant or merely “be offended”. So we censor that word as we censor many wayward thoughts and words. “They make a desolation, and they call it peace”. That’s the other side of p.c. Peace is a good thing, I reckon, but it comes at a price, a price they are prepared to pay in more places than Silicon Valley.

  15. Re: Tatyana’s threat to do physical harm to boors and haters: “….I’m not waiting to be subjected to the same treatment I had been, in my former country of residence. I am not running anymore.”

    Tatyana, As a practical, situational reality, when one is attacked verbally or physically it is almost always possible to move away from the situation. This should be reaction #1. If one cannot then one is justified, in the case of physical attack, in using force; but not for verbal abuse. You threaten to harm people for what they say at work – unacceptable, you begin to become what you despise.

    In my view one is justified in going nuclear if one is touched in a threatening way or (and I diverge from the legal view here, I believe) if one’s property is seized. Then it is time to exercise the 2nd amendment.

  16. “Should be reaction #1”?

    Who are you to tell me what my reaction should be? You want to run – go ahead. But I am not letting insults pass.
    Even if that would make a friendly majority feel like they live in the idealized 50’s. I’m not a pocket Jew. And not a “Sam the Jew” either. I believe I have other sides to my personality that could make me stand apart, besides my ethnic composition.

  17. Tatyana,

    Who are you to tell me what my reaction should be?

    Well, if you start punching people then it becomes a matter of public interest.

    But I am not letting insults pass.

    I think the entire matter under discussion is whether certain words or phrases are always insulting, the position advanced by the PC crowd, or whether context controls whether their use comprises an insult. Clearly, if you can’t tolerate this type of intimacy and make it clear to others that you do not, then it would be insulting and threatening for them to tease you in such a manner. On the other hand, if they simply made good hearted attempt to include you in a group without understanding how you would react to such an attempt, it would be uncivil on your part to respond violently.

  18. Shannon – the “public” can kiss my royal Jewish bottom, then.
    I don’t go around punching people for no reason, if I do – they went out of their way to deserve it. Deliberate insult to my ethnicity, nationality, gender or age is what I call “deserve it”.

    That’s a very strange method, in order to include me in a group to start throwing demeaning racial epithets my way. A bit counteruintuitive, don’t you think? It’s not only me personally that “can’t tolerate this kind of intimacy” – it’s tactless, to say the least, even to offer this as a sign of intimacy.

    Context matters a lot – that’s what i have been saying since my original comment. And I was also saying that some name-calling is less offending than other, regardless the participants and context. Depend on social standing of the members of the particular group, and the level of general dislike towards this group in society.

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